While the UConn offense has been far from perfect, it certainly has its share of bright spots. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs has shown flashes of success this season, and wide receiver Noel Thomas is in the midst of a record-setting season, ranking among the nation’s best in total receptions (ranked sixth) and receiving yards (12th).
On top of the success of two of the offense’s most important players, the Huskies have benefitted mightily from redshirt freshman quarterback-turned-tight end Tyler Davis, who has already become one of Shirreffs’ top targets.
Head coach Bob Diaco raved about Davis and his transition at the Huskies’ weekly press conference prior to their home game against Cincinnati.
“He’s been fantastic…He’s really a weapon for that position,” Diaco said of Davis. “He’s starting to learn how to block, how to level down and collect himself and how to power base to strike and stay on body. He’s really coming around. He’s developing every day.”
In his first five games at the position, Davis ranks third on the team with 11 receptions for 107 yards, and has the lone receiving touchdown that was not caught by Thomas this season.
The 6-foot-4-inch Davis has quickly evolved into Shirreffs’ preferred tight end target, posting more catches and nearly as many yards as Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers combined (nine catches, 114 yards) . Bloom and Myers were expected to get the bulk of snaps at the beginning of the season with Davis filling in occasionally, but as the season has progressed the roles have switched.
Although Davis has adapted quickly to the pass-catching and route-running responsibilities of the role, there are still some facets of the position he needs work on, specifically blocking.
“It’s definitely gotten a lot better. It’s a lot to learn,” Davis said of his blocking. “It’s a lot more technique and footwork and leverage than I ever knew. I like to think that I’m getting better each and every day.”
Despite making the switch, Davis still has chances to throw the football due to his work on special teams. As the holder for the field goal unit, Davis has helped the Huskies convert on a handful of trick plays already, completing both his passing attempts for a total of 42 yards.
Davis’ switch isn’t unprecedented. Less than ten years ago, quarterback D.J. Hernandez made the switch from play-caller to wide receiver, hauling in 17 catches for 261 yards in his lone season as a wide out in 2008. Much like Hernandez, Davis’ knowledge of the system from his experience at quarterback made his transition easier.
“What was initially met with some trepidation ends up being ‘Wow, I can’t imagine that I would be doing anything other than this,’” Diaco said of Davis’ transition. “And that’s how it looks.”